I grew up in a small town in Michigan. I was raised by strong and independent parents with blue collar conservative values and a philosophy centered on solid morals, hard work and the golden rule. We built or rebuilt pretty much everything and it became clear that resourcefulness is a wonderful substitution for money as it gave us things that were not possible to have otherwise. There were always projects going on that exposed me to all aspects of fabrication, engine building, general trouble shooting and repair. Many of the projects were for fun and focused on making something work better or go faster and I was fortunate to grow up with all the tools and toys that go with tractors, dirt bikes, snowmobiles and dune buggies.
I picked rocks and baled hay at the local farms as a teen and was amazed to realize that I could make more money by simply working harder and longer. I applied the same approach in school and earned a scholarship that covered my first two years of college and allowed me to live at home and paint cars in our garage to help pay for the next two years of college. I transferred to Michigan Technological University my junior year and stayed on for a graduate degree. It was great to learn the laws of physics and to better understand the actions and reactions that I had previously observed while making, breaking and fixing things. I accepted an engineering position at Mercury Marine in 1985 after college.
Mercury was developing large V6 2 stroke outboards when I joined the company. The engines produced unprecedented horsepower power which significantly increased the thermal and mechanical loading of the piston. It was clear that the piston technology required for large bore V-6 2-strokes was unique and new technology would be required for success. Mercury management has the foresight to realize that we could help secure our future by developing in house piston technology and initiated an aggressive effort to gain a detailed understanding of piston design for their relatively new application. I was fortunate to be chosen to lead that effort and was supported by an incredibly talented group of people who taught me so much about all aspects of the engineering process.
My early work at Mercury made it clear that the entire system needed to be considered to get an optimal result. High piston temperature, distorted bores, cooling, lubrication and fuel distribution challenges all showed opportunity and the group continued to grow and expand its knowledge. Over the years a total system approach was taken to develop expertise in piston and ring design and in all areas of engine design that affect the piston including: Combustion, cooling, lubrication, honing, fuel management, computer modeling, head gaskets, porting, casting, machining, assembly, etc. The criticality of piston profile design justified the purchase of a CNC piston turning lathe which greatly accelerated that learning curve and helped reduce product development cycle times. The manufacturing insights gained were valuable then and are even more valuable now for our custom piston manufacturing operation.
I truly enjoyed my time at Mercury but in 2002 it was time to take another step towards independence and to move back to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. I joined a small technology firm called IR Telemetrics (IRT), but maintained a good relationship with Mercury that ultimately resulting in Mercury selling me the CNC piston lathe. I began providing engineering support for various racing organizations while at IRT. The unique expertise developed for the Mercury two strokes turned out to be very applicable to 4-stroke racing engines. Design changes were made that produced power and durability improvements and a significant amount of interest was generated amongst some of the top organizations in the racing industry.
I started Leadfoot Engineering in 2007 and built a new facility to support the growth of the piston manufacturing division. Consulting and piston manufacturing relationships are in place with leading racing organizations and OEM manufacturers of engines for off road recreational vehicles. We also provide engineering consulting and custom piston manufacturing services for companies that produce specialty engines for aircraft and heavy fuel UAV applications and we are in the process of developing the custom piston division for the high performance after market and other specialty applications.
Over 25 years of power cylinder design, development and manufacturing experience combined with an extensive network of contacts within the power cylinder supply base puts Leadfoot Engineering in a position to become an extension of its customers engineering organizations by supporting the execution of engine programs that are critical to the success of the respective businesses.